In what could be seen as a bid to ease tensions between Russia and the west, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia sees no need to use military force in the Crimea region of Ukraine... for now. Putin stressed that the use force would be 'a choice of last resort'.
But the Russian president warned western powers that imposing sanctions against Russia would be 'counter-productive', after the US and the EU threatened Moscow on Monday with sanctions if Russian troops do not withdraw from the region.
“In the absence of the escalating steps by Russia the EU will decide what the consequences would be for bilateral relations between the EU and Russia. We talk about the potential of suspending bilateral talks on the new agreement and we will consider targeted measures.” said EU Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton.
Putin also said that there had been an "unconstitutional coup" in Ukraine and ousted president Viktor Yanukovich was still the legitimate leader of the country despite giving up all power.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has called for an emergency summit meeting next Thursday, when EU heads of state will gather in Brussels to agree on a common response to the Ukrainian crisis.
“We are firmly convinced that there need to be a peaceful solution to this current crisis in full respect of international law, so we call on Russia to immediately withdraw the troops to the areas where there are permanently stations on the basis of the agreement of the Black Sea fleet station in Ukraine.” said EU Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton.
Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due to meet the Russian Foreign Minister in Madrid on Tuesday and she will travel to Kiev on Wednesday.